Drew Lock leads furious Broncos comeback, stakes long-term claim

DENVER -- Oh, let the comparison shopping begin.

In back-to-back games, Denver Broncos quarterback Drew Lock's rocky sophomore year has been put squarely under the football microscope. Because life in the AFC West was a lot more fun for the Broncos when they were on the top end of the quarterback pyramid in the division, with John Elway and Peyton Manning doing Hall of Fame things and Jake Plummer providing wins and playoff appearances in between.

And whether it's always fair -- it’s not, but welcome to the NFL -- Lock has certainly seen his future in a span of seven days. Patrick Mahomes still hasn't lost to the Broncos, with trophies already filling his mantel, and Justin Herbert bounced back from an interception on his first pass attempt of the game to show a dumptruck's worth of potential on Sunday.

But Lock, with three touchdown passes in the Broncos' 21-point fourth-quarter surge, including one on the last play of the game, shook off what was shaping up as a day-after-Halloween horror show, turning it into a 31-30 comeback win over the Los Angeles Chargers.

Herbert had his fourth game with at least three touchdown passes, but Lock had the game that finally might let him breathe.

Lock, who had entered the game last in the league in completion percentage and touchdown passes (he hadn't thrown one since the season opener before his TD pass to Albert Okwuegbunam in the fourth quarter Sunday), spent the week after Denver's 43-16 loss to the Chiefs dealing with his decision-making process, as he passed up easier completions for far riskier, less-productive throws. He'll spend the coming days talking about how to keep it going.

All due to a 14-play, 81-yard drive that culminated with a 1-yard touchdown pass to KJ Hamler as time expired, moving the Broncos to 3-4 and giving Lock the boost he has needed.

Two words: Find. Consistency. The Broncos' offensive plan is too-often a brief scoring feast or a lumbering punt-filled football famine. Lock was 12-of-23 for 93 yards at the end of the third quarter Sunday before he topped 100 yards passing in the fourth quarter alone.

Lock's footwork and mechanics are often going the wrong way -- especially when he faces pressure from the middle. The Broncos don’t make big plays at important times often enough, and they aren't consistently putting any drives together when not in comeback mode. Are they a run team? A play-action team? A throw-it-around team? None of the above at the moment, at least not consistently.

Phillip Lindsay, with his 55-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, continues to look like a starting point, at least one the Broncos should consider going with in the near future.

Troubling trend: Until the frenetic finish, the Broncos' offense made first down an enormous hurdle. The team's opening play of the game was a 2-yard run by Melvin Gordon III, followed by an illegal formation penalty, a run for no gain, a block in the back penalty, a 1-yard run, a run for no gain, an incomplete pass and another incomplete pass on their next seven first-down plays. Denver didn't have a first-down play gain more than 2 yards until a 6-yard pass to Noah Fant with 1:48 left in the first half.

QB breakdown: Since a 22-of-33, 216-yard performance in the season opener against the Titans, Lock had not been the same since his Week 2 right (throwing) shoulder injury against the Steelers until the fourth quarter on Sunday. Lock finished 26-of-41 for 248 yards with the three touchdowns and an interception, even though he had thrown for fewer than 100 yards by the end of the third quarter.

Lock has five interceptions in his three starts since returning to the lineup and didn't have a completion of more than 27 yards until the fourth quarter on Sunday. But that fourth quarter, when he seemed to decide it was now-or-never, tipped the scales for him.